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Private schools offer jobs to test failures

INDEPENDENT schools are poaching student teachers from the understaffed state sector with assurances that passes in literacy and numeracy tests are not required.

Trainee teachers who fear they will fail the skills tests are looking to independent schools to provide no-strings job offers.

Brighton University, where the failure rate has increased from 3 per cent to 23 per cent since the numeracy test was introduced, has been directly approached by heads of independent schools on the lookout for staff. Teachers are not required to pass the tests to teach in independent schools.

Diana Brightling, Brighton's co-ordinator for initial teaching training, said: "Heads of independent schools are catching students who are worried about passing the tests. For those students who want to teach but think they will fail, the private sector is one of the only options.

"Students who have got a job in a state school will have to wait till August for their test results. If they do not pass, they cannot take up their posts. Heads are going to find it difficult to employ someone else at such a late stage.

"This is a crisis waiting to happe and the Government just does not seem to realise."

Student teachers this year have four chances of passing the literacy and numeracy tests by August. The challenge increases next year when students will also be asked to take an information and communications technology exam.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The Government has to think through the whole testing regime before we lose a number of high-quality staff from our schools. To lose staff to independent schools when we are so short of teachers is utter lunacy."

A spokesman from the Independent Schools Council, which represents 1,300 of the 2,400 private schools, said: "I would be surprised if our members were taking on student teachers who failed the basic literacy and numeracy tests.

"Independent schools are not obliged to employ newly qualified teachers. But all our members are recommended to offer the induction year which will allow teachers to gain the qualified teacher status they would need to work in the maintained sector. This presupposes they have passed the necessary skills tests while training."

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